Education is Gamified

In very general terms, let me describe a game to you.

You enter the game and you decide on a number of scenarios to participate in. Within each scenario, you have a number of time limited tasks to accomplish, for which you receive varying levels of reward points, depending on how successful you are at the task. The individual task points accumulate within each scenario to provide you with some overall prize for each scenario. Many of the scenarios have various levels that you can complete, following roughly the same model of rewarded tasks. Finally, if you manage to successfully complete a number of scenarios, you finish the game, and get your big final reward. A brilliant game that can be a lot of fun, and is loaded with rewards and prizes along the way with a big one at the end.

Isn’t this our education system?

I have read a number of blogs (eg. here and here) and heard a number of talks, in the last year, about the gamification of education. On the surface, it sounds like a great idea, however, It strikes me that the principles of gaming have been derived from education, not the other way around. I think that some of the fundamental problems with education can be attributed to the built in gamification.

Students get caught up in the tasks, scenarios, and levels looking for the big reward at the end as though that is the only reason they are participating. Learning disappears into the pursuit of grades for assignments, classes and finally, a GPA or degree classification. In a game, it is the points and rewards that keep players engaged. Unfortunately, in education, it is the grades and degrees that motivate too many of our students.

So I ask, why should we be trying to introduce more gamification into education when it is already responsible for eclipsing learning for so many students?

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